The Charleston church shooting was a massacre and terrorist attack, that took place at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, United States, on the evening of June 17, 2015. (Wikipedia)
Eerily, this massacre occurred a day after Donald Trump announced his run for office and tweeted # MakeAmericaGreatAgain, a campaign slogan now synonymous with nazi’s, white supremacy, xenophobia, and racism, all ideas and notions Dylan Roofe looked forward to in what could be Trumps Americ[kkk]a. An Amerikkka of fake news and daily wild fires.
The fallout of the domestic terrorist attack did not light a fire under congress or the house to pass gun regulation legislations nor did the killings address the systemic nationwide roots of racism as many in the media at first refused to believe this was racially motivated until it was discovered that the piece of shit of a being was a Alt-Right Neo-Nazi. The fire kept burning.
Information, technology and internet access in 2017 has reached a point where knowledge and truth is difficult to distinguish between lies and FAKE NEWS that run rampant and present in seemingly all corners of the modern world. No where has this contestation of truth divided a people more than those living within the United States, a nation whose president has no issues with masking or contorting the truth (All Of President Donald Trump’s Lies | The Last Word | MSNBC – YouTube in favor of making plausible the impossible in the name of white-supremacy President Donald Trump On Charlottesville: You Had Very Fine People, On Both Sides | CNBC – YouTube and questionable morals as well as ethics. (Remember when he didn’t really know who Fredrick Douglas was? Trump: Frederick Douglass ‘Has Done An Amazing Job’ – YouTube)
[image from Vox comparing Obama’s inauguration crowd to Trumps. Which is bigger?]
I choose to equate- in the form of a metaphor- the technologies that give us access to internet and the web itself to that of fire. The creation and spread of information on the internet- similarly to fire- has become a tool one can use to keep warm and prosper or can be used as a weapon to burn others if not oneself. Following this then we can look at a blank webpage as akin to starring at a bunch of logs in an unlit fireplace in a cold cabin or an oven burner thats turned off. Turning on, or logging in, ignites the flame that gives one the light needed to see in the dark to make out the shadows (think of Plato’s allegory of the cave Plato’s Allegory of the Cave – Alex Gendler – YouTube) that begin to offer one new possibilities for the self. Just as fire gives life so too does access the internet.
If not contained and monitored fires can get dangerous and cause major damage and leave burn scars. Fires spreading on the web can take the form of video, tweets, pictures or posts. (Remember, fire is not good or bad, it just is.) So how are these fires treated? Who are our online fire fighters and what is their water? Answers to this differ, but for the purposes of this post fire represents truth and knowledge production, the firefighters are online digital activists and their bucket of water to put out the flames is in the form of a #Syllabus.
The #Syllabus, writes Alyssa Lyons, “has emerged as a digital, crowd-sourced form of knowledge production in response to the events in Charleston, Ferguson, and the Black ives Matter movement from 2014 until today. #Syllabi are challenging and restructuring the means by which people seek and affirm knowledge. Historian Lisa A. Monroe describes them as, “critical intellectual resources [that] promote collective study both within and outside the academy during a moment of heightened racial tension.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, for example, had released a syllabus that addressed America’s history and how Trump came to be president. One of the issues with this syllabus was that it lacked a diversity of voices, pulling from mainly white male authors and no selections that talk about and explore the experiences of people of color or the oppressed. This is why many have taken to the web to put out the bad flames destroying and dividing Americans along racial lines.
Those who participate in the creation of a #syllabus should be considered techno-educational-activist, which is a form of political activism that seeks egalitarian alliances and connections across difference through web platforms. It requires a mode of consciousness that replicates the digital potentialities and egalitarianism of cyberspace. By using tools that have been traditionally denied to marginalized communities, techno-educational-activists turned the tables on education inequality. They use the strategies of the oppressor, so to speak, to empower the oppressed. I do not believe a #Syllabus would be as popular without social media platforms and a community of scholars who call out bull shit when they see it and respond with a more rounded out work to better reflect whatever topic it may be.
While technology can be seen as bad it also has an important value in dreaming up and creating alternative realities we hope to make real. Take, for example, smartphones and their ability to communicate globally what’s occurring. The way Native Americans have utilized technology to bring attention to Standing Rock, for example, provides one the means for showing the world its problems. That same device can then be used to create art that reimagines an alternative resistance and existence.
For many, and specifically for people of color facing systemic issues that either halt or impede learning beyond high school, with no access to higher education the #Syllabus in all its forms, topics, and iterations becomes an effective way of side stepping the academy and its bureaucratic and/or economic crap present on even the most liberal of colleges and universities. When the fire spreads uncontrollably, will you be around to put out the fire?